Pigeons shift their preference toward locations of food that take more effort to obtain

Behav Processes. 2004 Nov 30;67(3):405-15. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2004.07.001.


Although animals typically prefer to exert less effort rather than more effort to obtain food, the present research shows that requiring greater effort to obtain food at a particular location appears to increase the value of that location. In Experiment 1, pigeons' initial preference for one feeder was significantly reduced by requiring 1 peck to obtain food from that feeder and requiring 30 pecks to obtain food from the other feeder. In Experiment 2, a similar decrease in preference was not found when pigeons received reinforcement from both feeders independently of the amount of effort required. These results are consistent with the within-trial contrast effect proposed by in which the relative hedonic value of a reward depends on the state of the animal immediately prior to the reward. The greater the improvement from that prior state the greater the value of the reinforcer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Columbidae
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Reward